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(Pocket-lint) - The Canon EOS 600D updates the EOS 550D DSLR, adding a new vari-angle capable LCD screen. There are other subtle changes between the pair, including the 600D’s addition of a wireless flash commander.

With an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor paired with Canon’s DIGIC 4 processor, the 600D can capture large images in both JPEG or RAW (CR2) formats. There’s also a Full HD movie mode that can capture 1080p at either 30, 25 or 24 frames per second. A 3.5mm microphone jack means an external mic can be attached for more control over sound recording, making the 600D a well-specified video-capable machine as well as stills shooter.

Although certainly very good there are some limitations to manual movie controls - you may wish to look higher up the range (i.e., Canon EOS 7D or Canon EOS 5D mkII) should you want true manual aperture and exposure controls during capture. However the 600D does allow the use of exposure lock and exposure compensation during recording.

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A clear focus of the 600D’s design is the vari-angle LCD screen. With a market-leading resolution that’s over one million dots, there is plenty of detail to see and the fact that it is built onto a bracket for rotation through any angle makes for creative shooting possibilities. Those little fussed by the screen’s adjustable proposition will be pleased that it’s subtly designed and doesn’t include any bulky projections from the camera body.  

Above the screen and the 95% field of view optical viewfinder is a staple solution for this level of camera. The view is of a decent size and we like the AF points that light up red when focus is attained. The 600D’s focusing system itself is the very same 9-point system (with on centre cross type) as found in the 550D - meaning it is pretty nippy off the mark. Single AF point adjustment has its own unique button on the rear of the camera for quick and easy control too. However, flip into live view mode and focusing is a completely different story: it’s far slower and often over- and under-focuses before delivering the goods. This is an area that’s seen limited advancements over recent models and the 600D doesn’t really step things up above and beyond the current standard.

Much like the AF system, the 600D also directly imports the very same 3.7fps burst mode as found in the 550D. The frame rate is quite reasonable and can snap up to 34 JPEG images, though RAW shooters may be disappointed that only four to five RAW frames can be shot before the buffer fills up.

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The 600D’s images are the icing on the cake. Image noise is well-controlled and JPEG images straight from the camera exhibit little to no interfering image grain from ISO 100-800. Noise reduction does begin to soften images hereafter, though it’s only really the top-end ISO 12,800 extension option that struggles considerably. Shooting in RAW allows for greater manual control and adjustment at the higher ISO settings. However the contrast-boost and sharpening of the JPEG files is well gauged and looks good straight from the camera.

Far less a model to entice 550D owners to upgrade, the 600D instead offers a well-specified mid-range package that’s pushing into the 60D’s territory. And that’s no bad thing. Given the 600D and 60D both utilise the very same 18-megapixel CMOS sensor design, there is no difference in image quality between the pair. That’s a fairly bold statement, but the matching 9-point autofocus system, iFCL metering system and DIGIC 4 processor work in exactly the same way. So if you want 60D quality in a more affordable package, then the 600D should be right up your street.

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For the new starter there are also a few modes that turn this camera into a point-and-shoot powerhouse. The new Scene Intelligent Auto mode found on the top dial analyses the scene at hand and then auto selects the most appropriate settings - all you have to do is point and shoot. Shrewdly targeted at the first time user, the 600D also imports the Creative Auto mode as found in the EOS 1100D model. This mode simplifies settings into a single screen to adjust “background blur”, colour, flash and continuous shooting controls.

And yet, with these kind of entry-level options, the 600D also successfully brings forth more advanced modes too: the addition of a wireless flash commander means that the camera can be used to control external flashguns for creative lighting solutions. That’s a fairly big step above and beyond the 550D. 

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To recap

The 600D’s 18MP sensor produces great-looking images to rival any mid-range DSLR. The build quality and slow live view may be its weaknesses but the inclusion of a vari-angle LCD screen and wireless flash control features make the 600D a very strong model indeed

Writing by William Perceval.